1

which

play
adjective \ ˈhwich , ˈwich \

Definition of which

1 :being what one or ones out of a group used as an interrogative
  • which tie should I wear
  • kept a record of which employees took their vacations in July
2 :whichever
  • it will not fit, turn it which way you like
3 used as a function word to introduce a nonrestrictive relative clause and to modify a noun in that clause and to refer together with that noun to a word or word group in a preceding clause or to an entire preceding clause or sentence or longer unit of discourse
  • in German, which language might … have been the medium of transmission
  • —Thomas Pyles
  • that this city is a rebellious city …  : for which cause was this city destroyed
  • —Ezra 4:15 (King James Version)

Recent Examples of which from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'which.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of which

Middle English, of what kind, which, from Old English hwilc; akin to Old High German wilīh of what kind, which, Old English hwā who, gelīk like — more at who, like


2

which

pronoun

Definition of which

1 :what one or ones out of a group used as an interrogative
  • which of those houses do you live in
  • which of you want tea and which want lemonade
  • he is swimming or canoeing, I don't know which
2 :whichever
  • take which you like
3 used as a function word to introduce a relative clause used in any grammatical relation except that of a possessive used especially in reference to animals, inanimate objects, groups, or ideas
  • the bonds which represent the debt
  • —G. B. Robinson
  • the Samnite tribes, which settled south and southeast of Rome
  • —Ernst Pulgram
used freely in reference to persons as recently as the 17th century
  • our Father which art in heaven
  • —Matthew 6:9 (King James Version)
, and still occasionally so used but usually with some implication of emphasis on the function or role of the person rather than on the person as such
  • chiefly they wanted husbands, which they got easily
  • —Lynn White
used by speakers on all educational levels and by many reputable writers, though disapproved by some grammarians, in reference to an idea expressed by a word or group of words that is not necessarily a noun or noun phrase
  • he resigned that post, after which he engaged in ranching
  • Current Biography

that, which, or who?

In current usage that refers to persons or things, which chiefly to things and rarely to subhuman entities, who chiefly to persons and sometimes to animals. The notion that that should not be used to refer to persons is without foundation; such use is entirely standard. Because that has no genitive form or construction, of which or whose must be substituted for it in contexts that call for the genitive.


that vs. which

Although some handbooks say otherwise, that and which are both regularly used to introduce restrictive clauses in edited prose. Which is also used to introduce nonrestrictive clauses. That was formerly used to introduce nonrestrictive clauses; such use is virtually nonexistent in present-day edited prose, though it may occasionally be found in poetry.


First Known Use of which

before 12th century


WHICH Defined for English Language Learners

which

play
adjective

Definition of which for English Language Learners

  • : what one or ones of a group : what particular one or ones


which

pronoun

Definition of which for English Language Learners

  • : what one or ones out of a group

  • —used to introduce an additional statement about something that has already been mentioned

  • —used after a preposition to refer again to something that has already been mentioned


WHICH Defined for Kids

1

which

play
adjective \ ˈhwich , ˈwich \

Definition of which for Students

:what certain one or ones
  • Which hat should I wear?

2

which

pronoun

Definition of which for Students

1 :which one or ones
  • Which is the right answer?
2 used in place of the name of something other than people at the beginning of a clause
  • He needs help, which we can provide.
  • The idea which you had was good.


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